It was around 2009 that social media became a part of my life. I joined reluctantly. “Who has 1000 friends they communicate with regularly? It’s just a shallow trend!” was frequently heard uttered by not only myself but others.
I’d seriously underestimated the positive as well as the negative I found there eventually.
The initial intent was to stay in touch with faraway friends and family, but my circle quickly grew to include lost friendships from high school, in-common friends I’d not ever known, and new friends who shared common interests. It was a wide variety of people from all walks of life and which had a wide range of interests that I began to include in my daily life. I can honestly say this brought me a great deal of joy. Adding Twitter and Instagram to the mix allowed me to share with even more people, most of which I’d never met, but they seemed to like what I added to their lives. Hopefully, as much as what they contributed to mine. It turned out to be a good decision to join up on all these platforms.
There were drawbacks, though. The thing which became glaringly obvious was the amount of time one can spend at the computer, phone, or tablet keeping up with all that was shiny and new to see. It may be fascinating, but oh, the time suck!!! There was much left undone in those early days that genuinely needed to get done, and where was I? At the keyboard, of course, looking at the monitor, having fun and interested, and unable to tear myself away because I wanted to read JUST ONE MORE THING! Dishes in the sink, laundry waiting for attention, a dust-filled house crying cleaning – all not considered as necessary anymore because there is something way more interesting going on in the place called the Internet. I’m ashamed to admit it, but early on, that’s what happened.
More and more, I watched social media polluted with a new form of comedy. The news feed streamed a lot of the satire sites, confusing our thinking with content, which was not true but purported to be real. Sometimes it was just that – satire, but so many times it was propaganda pushed onto the masses for an agenda. It was distracting, and in that sense, a time-waster because it required more research to determine whether it was true or not. That was frustrating to me, and many of my friends who were striving for knowledge and accuracy. And it’s discouraging to see so many others who ingested all content they were inundated with as if it were fact.
Personal details about our friend’s lives endear us to them even more with this far-reaching tool, but with anything, when used to manipulate for gain, then it’s a detriment, not beneficial. And so many can’t see it as it’s happening. Drama after drama plays out online, and tugs at heartstrings. The generosity pours out, but sometimes the people are just pawns. It’s sad to see, and devastating to those who succumbed to the deception. Social media has the potential for harm and teaches us to be warier and to be less trusting because of it.
Social media can allow us to feel more anonymous and thereby more confident in the presentation of ourselves to our audience. But some choose to remain anonymous just for the sake of being bold, extremely deprecating, and even insulting to others. It’s like social media has given them the super-power of assholey-ness, and they have a worldwide audience. I’ve talked to many who have had encounters that have left them feeling demoralized, marginalized, angered, and humiliated at times.
I also think having this tool to be more “social” also impacts us more negatively. Information gets to us quicker, but it is more devastating when our constructed social network or our personal ‘community’ is injured more dramatically than ever before. It can escalate or dial-up the drama at a much faster pace, and the negative can ratchet up to unheard-of levels quicker than ever before. The misery of others is the fodder in our everyday news cycle, where previously, it may have taken weeks, months, or not at all to hear the gossip. Now, it’s a laid out on our Newsfeeds. And what a nasty pile-on it can become.
Stepping back, when I evaluate it realistically, social media is just the extended version of real life. All of the things I mentioned above do occur in person to person contact. The only difference is it happens on a much grander scale in the online world. There are more people involved, more interactions, more hype, more distraction, and more drama. It’s helped make our community bigger but in a much different way than we thought it would. Social media is representing life on a larger scale, where it’s become louder and more visible.
Thankfully, we will encounter good individuals in our electronic travels, but people being people, some of them using these platforms will be twat-waffles. Unfortunately, that group will dim the positive impact social media can have on our world.